It was Science Night on Real Time with Bill Maher on Friday, with astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and evolutionary biologist/atheist/Ahmed Mohamed truther Richard Dawkins joining Maher to discuss more of America’s endless dysfunction. Tyson stuck to topics like gun control and this week’s discovery of liquid water under the surface of Mars. Dawkins spent his segment complaining about how some people get up in his business when he condemns an entire religion to hell—in this case, Islam.
You can imagine Maher’s glee.
The conversation began with Maher bringing up the overzealousness of some college students who fail to grasp the concept of free speech and ban certain speakers from coming to campus. Ridiculous, right? After all, as Dawkins says, “If you only ever get exposed to ideas that you agree with, what kind of university would that be?”
Maher took this as an opportunity to commiserate with his fellow atheist on a pet topic of theirs: Muslims’ treatment as a “protected species” by “regressive” liberals who give Islam a “free pass.”
“If we talk about them at all, or criticize them at all, it’s [as if we’re] somehow hurting or humiliating Muslims. It’s ridiculous,” said Maher (who didn’t bring up Dawkins’ implication that Ahmed Mohamed purposely got arrested for building a clock in order to get famous).
“Yes. And it’s confused with racism too,” Dawkins chimed in. “An incredible number of people think Islam is a race.”
Maher chortled, Dawkins rolled on. “In the case of Islam, it just gets a free pass and I think it’s because of the terror of being thought racist.”
“Right, or worse, an Islamophobe—a silly word that means nothing,” Maher declared, before listing his liberal bona fides and pronouncing “Cesar Chavez” like a confused French person.
“I was seven years old when my parents told me, ‘We’re for Kennedy and him trying to let black people go to college in the South.’ I didn’t even know who black people were, there weren’t any in my town. I knew we were on their side and that we were on the side of Cesar Chavez and the lettuce pickers,” Maher said. “And then we were on the side of the women’s movement and poor and minorities, whatever it was, gay people, disabled, the abused, the molested, whatever Caitlyn is up to, we were for it. And they applaud that, but if we say something about a woman who’s forced to wear a beekeeper suit in the hot summer all day…”
“Oh, that’s their culture, you have to respect it,” Dawkins said mockingly.
“That’s right! That’s what they say. It’s just insane,” Maher said, swooning.
“Liberal about everything else, but then this one exception, ‘It’s their culture.’ Well, to hell with their culture,” Dawkins concluded, to a storm of applause and a passionate yelp of approval from Maher.
Last October, Maher memorably hosted another Islam-centered conversation (screaming match) with Ben Affleck and Sam Harris, who said at the time that “the crucial point of confusion is that we have been sold this meme of Islamophobia where every criticism of the doctrine of Islam gets conflated with bigotry toward Muslims as people.” Affleck challenged Harris by asking, “So you’re saying that Islamophobia is not a real thing?” and calling such criticisms of Islam “gross” and “racist” (Again, Islam is not a race.) No one won, no one learned a thing. But the exchange was hailed as riveting live TV and, in America, that’s what really matters.